By nature, I’m kind of a loner. I’m an introvert who works on writing every day whilst alone. Not exactly a recipe for oodles of friends, right? But for most of my life, I didn’t feel like I needed oodles of friends. I was perfectly happy reading and writing most of the time, meeting and greeting only when totally necessary–until I was sidelined with a health condition that kicked my butt for the better part of two years. Two years of chilling at home, trying to get better, watching the outside world pass me by, and being unable to take part. When you have something taken away from you, no matter what it is, you long for it. So when I finally healed, you better believe I had an undying itch to be social. Problem is, I don’t have a normal 9 to 5 job, and therefore do not have a regular friend group. However, I creatively solved that problem in a few ways. Let’s take a peek.
Get active in your city.
There are usually tons of events around your city, most of which you probably aren’t attending. How do you find out about these little gems? A few ways. First of all, at the most basic level, I look at flyers; 90 percent of these are “meh,” but around 10 percent are kinda interesting. I’ve found out about mixers, wine tastings, author readings, and beer crawls this way. Also, if you’re not on it, find out if your city has an active Meetup scene. Mine does, and there are so many cool things to do. You can go rock climbing with fellow adventurers, hit the trails with other hikers, sip Pinot with vino lovers, or just mix it up with other professionals in your age bracket. Plus, everybody is there to meet new people, so the likelihood of being iced out is virtually zero.
Start convos with random strangers.
Sometimes I see people who just look interesting, don’t you? Maybe they’re engrossed in a book or sipping a coffee beverage that looks amazingly delicious. And I want to talk to ’em! But since we live in a world where people don’t really know how to interact with others (thanks, smartphones), sometimes these interactions feel scary and uncomfortable. But don’t ignore the opportunity in these random encounters. Pick people who seem social and chat. My strategy for this is eavesdropping (yep) or commenting on a gadget or item said stranger has in their possession. If it’s a book, tell them you’ve “been meaning to read it! How is it?” If it’s a gadget, ask them how they like it and say that you’ve been checking out a new phone/tablet/laptop/etc. People have also used this concept on me; it works just wonderfully, by the way. Ultimately, you only have to talk about the conversation starter for a hot sec; if the person is welcoming, ask questions about other things. If the person doesn’t seem interested in continuing to chat, abandon ship with nothing lost.
Use tech to meet IRL.
Yes, you can use apps to mingle and meet, not just date. For instance, I recently talked to the communications director at Tinder who insists the app was designed and marketed as a networking device–not a hookup tool or a dating destination. Currently in a relationship, she uses it to network her way all over the globe. You can use more basic social media to connect to others in real life. For instance, a fellow freelance writer in my area found me on Twitter and asked if I wanted to grab coffee because we had a ton of mutual interests. I said of course! She quickly became one of my good friends. If you choose to do something like this, though, meet in a public area you know well, and definitely don’t ignore any bad vibes. (Your gut doesn’t lie.) The bottom line: Use social media to actually enhance your social life. If it’s not doing that, it’s a time-suck.
Do something you love and something you would never do normally.
I suggest two things: Sign up for an activity you love and pursue an interest you would never normally jump into. Why? You tend to meet like-minded people when you do the things you love. And it’s comfortable. So start here. If you take that cooking class or attend that poetry reading, you’ll have instant conversation starters for those who also attend, on topics you know well and actually enjoy. (Yay!) Then again, sometimes your horizons just need to be broadened. If your current friend group is ho-hum, try something you’d normally turn down. Like parasailing. Or a triathlon. Or an art class. When you choose, think about what sounds fulfilling to you–for instance, training hard to complete a marathon or getting in touch with nature by hiking. Anything that you imagine and think, “it’d be cool if I could do that.” You might find that your favorite hobby was hiding beneath a pile of self-doubt, and you also might just meet your new best friend in the process. At the end of the day, making friends is all about the effort you put in. The more welcoming energy you put out into the world, the more you will get back. So smile at people. Be kind to people. Ask questions when you’re curious, and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and face a little rejection. If an interaction doesn’t go well, it’s not the end of the world. You have so little to lose, and so much to gain.